Counting the Omer
People who have converted to Judaism often tell me about holiday overload. They go from celebrating a handful of holidays to almost a dozen. Yet, above and beyond the holidays we have certain practices, one of which I did not learn about until rabbinical school.
According to Jewish tradition, the upcoming festival of Shavuot is the anniversary of the giving of the Torah and the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Oddly though, we find no clear link in the Bible between the Shavuot festival and the giving of the Torah.
Right now, the Jewish community is finishing up its annual marking of days, as each night we count the Omer, the 49 days between the second night of Passover and the beginning of Shavuot. Immediately after, we'll mark another set of days, one with only despair and no celebration.
The human experience is not always pretty. Sometimes it's very tragic and difficult. Lag BaOmer is a day of joy that stands out in a time of sadness. It is a day that six years ago we forced ourselves to leave our broken hearts behind and participate in The Great Parade.
Early yesterday, during my morning prayers, I came across an interesting passage in the Zohar -- the enigmatic, poetic, foundational opus of Jewish mysticism -- and soon, innumerable surprising connections were revealed.
This is the time to sit with the anxiety, the ambiguity and the unknowability of our lives. This is the time to go down deep in to the deepest recesses of who we are, to find resources and riches we didn't know were there.
Will we view life as some sort of diminishing, increasingly limiting count down to the end, or will we see life as opening to an unending fount of opportunity, hope and joy? The Omer tradition, linking Passover to Shavuot, gives us the answer.
In between these joyous mile-markers of past desert wanderings, even fewer modern Jews observe the Counting of the Omer, a